I have decided to change my opinion of Oprah.
If you have read my twenty-five random facts about myself that I posted on the “About This Girl” page, you may have seen that I have this hypothetical party to which I invite celebrities I’m infatuated with. To be clear, the “invitation” consists of me simply saying, “I like him/her. He/She can come to my party.” I have no intention of having said party or expecting any of the guests to show up. Anyway, on the guest list was “Oprah’s best friend Gayle (but not Oprah).” It’s not that I didn’t like Oprah; I’m sure she would be a very polite party guest, and I did for a split second think about hiring her to announce each celebrity as they came in (Jooooel McHAAAAAAAALLLLEEE!). But she always just struck me as a bit too much of a name-dropper (I get it, she’s your “good friend Maya Angelou”), and Gayle just always struck me as the kind of girl who would travel to St. Louis for the sole reason of trying some fried chicken at Sweetie Pie’s. I’m down with that.
However, my view of Oprah changed the other day while watching her special, “Oprah Builds a Network” on the OWN channel. We all know Oprah has done countless works of charity, changed people’s lives all over the world, given people cars…you name it, she’s done it. But on that television special, I saw her do something that immediately made me see that she can literally change a life with the simplest of gestures that come from a place of authenticity. And it was all in a few words she said. She had just arrived someplace and came across a little girl, probably around my daughter’s age. I wish I could remember her exact words, but she looked at the girl and said, completely unprompted, something like, “I didn’t know YOU were going to be here! I had no idea I was going to meet such a beautiful little girl with such beautiful freckles. You have just the perfect amount of freckles.”
Simply, it made me smile. All Oprah had to say to that little girl was “nice to meet you,” if even that. Instead, she seized that brief moment to build a little girl’s self-esteem, to let her know she is enough to impress even Oprah exactly the way she is. For the rest of her life, that girl can remember the day Oprah Winfrey told her she was beautiful and that she had the perfect amount of freckles. If that doesn’t warrant giving Oprah an invitation to my party, I don’t know what does. I have certainly invited others for much less…like Pee-Wee Herman for teaching me there is no basement in the Alamo.
Being that I have a young girl of my own who has already felt the sting of low self-esteem, I might be hyper-sensitive to this issue. And so are a lot of other people. The assault against the positive self images of girls is a hot button topic. But as much as I agree that something needs to be done, I am often left feeling that so many of these “true beauty” campaigns seem too contrived, too inauthentic, too commercialized. Are girls really going to start feeling better about themselves because a soap company tells them they are beautiful, buttering them up so they will buy their soap? Maybe instead of making a special point to say the average girl is beautiful like some public service announcement, it just needs to become part of our normal rhetoric. And maybe we should throw in some other even more important attributes, like strong, capable, creative, worthy, and intelligent. Then maybe we can continue to raise generations of girls who will feel empowered enough to pursue the roles they choose, and be confident and proud in the choices they make for themselves, whether they want to be a politician or a stay-at-home mom.
Eventually, hopefully, the media will catch up. There ARE media sources out there trying to make a change (check out a new magazine called Verily). And I’m not talking about magazines who use one plus-sized model and then make a big deal about how they are using a plus-sized model because they “want to represent real women.” I don’t get that phrase. Does that implicate the other models as unreal women just because they are skinny? And pointing out that you are doing it in the first place automatically implies an inferiority of the plus-sized model AND the women she represents. Like please make sure you realize we are doing this to make you feel better about yourself, otherwise, we wouldn’t likely be doing it.
In the meantime, we can’t wait for the media. And we shouldn’t be letting the media raise our children anyway. WE are responsible for making our daughters feel good about themselves, and teaching them to look inside to find their self-worth. Let’s all be a little more like Oprah, saying and doing things to make our daughters feel as though they are enough to impress us just as they are. That’s all Oprah really had to do to impress me.
But if she wants to give me a car too, I wouldn’t stop her.